Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What is one of the great losses of expat living in Dubai? American Football!

First touchdown of the inaugural Desert Bowl Game
is scored by the Abu Dhabi Wildcats.
“Who let the dogs out!” Or, should that be camels?

Guess what my lovely husband Roger finds in Dubai? American football! What a great surprise for poor football-starved Roger.

One of the great losses of expat life in Dubai is watching a good American football game. 

This year we discovered the NFL Game Day Pass which allows Roger to watch his favorite Denver Broncos on the computer if he doesn't mind getting up at 2 AM to catch the game. But nothing matches the excitement and adrenaline rush of actually watching the gridiron get torn up by testosterone-charged boys running around after some pig skin!

So Roger is ecstatic to read about the Desert Bowl being played on Friday. 

This is the inaugural championship game of the Emirates American Football League, a league of four teams formed just seven months ago. 

The Emirates American Football League is made up of players, coaches and volunteers representing 35 different countries. The players, who are guys who just love to play the game, come with a wide range of game experience and  . . . inexperience.  The four teams in the league are the Abu Dhabi Wildcats, the Dubai Stallions, the Dubai Barracudas and the Al Ain Desert Foxes

Roger with Colt Fans Jani & John Diedam
The Desert Bowl pits the undefeated Abu Dhabi Wildcats against the Dubai Stallions.  The game is held at Jebel Ali Shooting Club just south of Dubai. 

It is a seminal moment when we enter the “stadium” and hear the warm-up grunts of the players, see children running pretend plays on the field and bump into our good friends John and Jani Diedam, die hard Indianapolis Colts fans!

You can take the boys out of America but you can’t take the football out of the boys! 

Dubai Stallions (red & white) meet the Abu Dhabi Wildcats (black & gold)
center field for the coin toss.

The Desert Bowl does not miss a beat. The Dubai weather is chilly enough to pass for a brisk Fall football afternoon. The coin gets tossed in the middle of the field with the hand-holding Abu Dhabi Wildcats coming en-mass to the ceremony. The game ball is delivered to the field by a trio of leather-clad tattooed guys on revved-up Harley Davidson motorcycles. The fans in the grandstand are bundled up in blankets and giddy with anticipation. On the sidelines the teams are warming up. And, the concession stand is cooking up hot dogs and hamburgers, plus an extra surprise, ice cold beer!!! 

Long Live Americana!

Alas, the only thing missing are the marching band and the  cute cheerleaders (would they be in abayas?). But heck, there is a great DJ spinning tunes and the Abu Dhabi Wildcats on the side lines do a remarkable job with cheers and it all works. 

And the star of the game is an Abu Dhabi Wildcat named Vivaldi Tulysse who played at North Miami High School in Miami, Florida. Those Florida boys do know how to play football. And on top of all this excitement, who so we spot on the field refereeing but Ken Johnson, one of Roger's colleague at Parsons! 

UAE Falcon Khalid Al Qassimi
And, as if wonders will never cease, we learn there is a semi-pro team in Dubai, the UAE Falcons. Khalid Al Qassimi, a linebacker for the Falcons and a member of the royal family of Sharjah, was on the sidelines to cheer on the teams.  

I am not even going to try and report on the game. You best check out The  National’s coverage. But I will say that the best team won and it was a most enjoyable afternoon with great friends. Brings back such fond memories of my days with legendary American football coach Howard Schenellnebger (see postscript). 

I am now officially an Abu Dhabi Wildcat fan, with the cap to prove it! 

Want to join the fun? There are still two games left. The Emirates American Football League All Star Game will be played on Friday March 22. And, the UAE Falcons will play a team TBA on April 8/9. Check in with their web site for details.

Postscript . . .

In one of my “past lives” I had the great privilege of working with an American football icon - Coach Howard Schnellenberger  - when he started the Florida Atlantic University Fighting Owls football team. 

To watch this inspirational coach rally his young team to their first Bowl game  . . . and win . . . in just their seventh season was an astonishing experience. But, nothing quite matches the finesse of this larger-than-life personality cajoling philanthropists to part with their money to fund a “dream” team. It is an experience I will never forget. Thanks Coach for the great ride.  

And a note to the Abu Dhabi Wildcats players. . . Schnellenberger started his football career playing as a Wildcat! There is no telling how far you can go! 

“To believe is to be Strong!”

Photo Album . . .

3rd from left . . . Referee Ken Johnson


  1. Great story! I did miss American football when we lived there and remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning to watch live college games a couple of times.
    I would have loved to see a photo of the fans doing their thing: hollering, eating a hot dog, and cheering on their team.

  2. Are you still in South America? Bet that is very interesting! Any football there?

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